Thembi's Spaza Shop

The objective of the student project was to design a so-called „Spaza Shop“ in the township „Joe Slovo West“, extending a recently erected residential building. The design work was lead by the intention to self-build and implement the intervention on site.

The owner had been offering goods for sale for quite some time, restricted to extremely limited space. In expectation of the project´s implementation, she has been trained within educational programs of microeconomics, empowering her to successfully implement her creative business ideas.

The new shop – apart from improving and expanding business activities – is also capable to accommodate one person, e.g. a possible tenant or a guest of the family.

The extension, also incorporating important measures of security against crime, reacts to its function as a new meeting point within the township’s Community Centre.


1. Design

The design of the new extension is based on the idea of marking a transition between public and private zones, between street and shop, achieved by extending the roof over the porch, the so-called “stoep”. Two openings, which can be closed by writable flaps, provide access to the counter as the point of contact between customer and vendor, as a typical township scenario. The extension takes over height and width of the existing residential building and continues it in a way that enhances the new building´s geometrical adaptation to the existing structure. However, with its distinctive timber construction and cladding, it emphasizes its specific use and architectural independence.

2. Construction

In order to meet the tight time frame of the three-week practical workshop, an efficient modular construction method had to be developed for the timber construction. The chosen method allowed for pre-fabrication of individual components in the workshops of PE College´s Iqhayiya Campus, located on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth´s city centre, about half an hour‘s drive from the building site in the township of Joe Slovo West.

3. Foundation and Baseplate

For structural support and tie-down of the wall panels, a U-shaped concrete strip foundation was established, complemented by a point foundation underneath the position of the central column, serving as the main support. The trenches were manually excavated off the two-way sloping terrain, the shuttering was installed and levels were checked by means of a tube scale before reinforcement was installed and connected at coupling points. Finally the ready-mix concrete was precisely filled in the formwork, carefully keeping any pre-installed connection elements in place. In order to minimize the amount of concrete the baseplate was assembled as a series of timber beams covered and stiffened by chipboard board panels, ventilated from below.

4. Prefabrication of Wall Panels

In the meantime, all wall modules were pre-assembled in the workshop. A frame for each wall panel was formed by timber profiles in a predefined, consistent outer dimension, responding to partially large tolerances of the outsourced industrial pallets. Within this frame, the timber pallets were joined and fixed by means of screws in order to form a rigid wall element. The pallet structure of each external wall module was filled with insulation material.

5. Assembly

After completion of the foundation and timber flooring, the prefabricated wall panels were transported to site, placed and temporarily fixed in position. Within the interior part of the building, the central column was assembled as a main support to the ridge beam. Later, the inner walls were fixed to this column, finally dividing the building volume into three different spaces.

6. Roof Construction

After assembly of the wall panels, the rafters could be slid into the spaced columns of the precisely prefabricated elements. The ridge beam, forming the main structural member in longitudinal direction of the building, is supported by the central column and the spaced post of the gable wall. On the gable wall of the existing building, made of concrete hollow blocks, the required support for the beam was provided by a joist hanger.

7. The Interior

The interior impresses with its generous ceiling height and material consistency. Through the specifically designed roof construction, the usual A-framed trusses projecting into the internal space could be avoided. Since suspended ceilings were left out completely, the geometry of the gabled roof with its layer of plywood underneath the structure becomes evident. Door-height partitions made of timber pallets separate the three different functional areas and continue the materiality of the outer façade.

8. Façade

Simultaneously to final roof works, the outer walls were covered with a water-repellent membrane, fixed to the wall structure by means of battens, allowing for the required vertical ventilation of the wooden façade. In the preassembled openings of the wall elements standardized timber windows were installed. In the gable part on the entrance side, the loadbearing structure was clad with a translucent corrugated sheeting, thus accentuating the generosity of the interior space by means of daylight. Meanwhile, works on the timber cladding were carried out, also re-using pallet elements previously ground and cut to size. Through different colours and grades of wear and tear resulting of their previous industrial use, the boards form a playful outer skin to the thus completed, distinctive new point of sales.


Year: 2018

Interior Design
Communication Design and Media

Prof. Silke Flaßnöcker
Kevin Kimwelle
Wolfgang Dörk

Christian Bauer, Janice Bockstiegel, Sibusiso Dyantyi, Lukas Frangart, Lukas Freitag, Morten Fuchs, Ntombovuyo Funde, Veronika Kmetova, Siyabulela Lama, Aviwe Mkula, Sinethemba Mncono, Xola Myoyo, Frauke Nessler, Merle Neumann, Moritz Niebler, Larissa Niemann, Swenja Püschel, Joshua Pumzile, Anna Sass, Benedict Schuster, Hlwati Sigqibo, Erick Jacobus Simons, Anda Temele, Wesley Twiss, Sona Veselovska, Veronika Veselovska